NHL Gameday: Vlasic questionable for road trip opener in Toronto

NHL Gameday: Vlasic questionable for road trip opener in Toronto

Programming note – Sharks-Maple Leafs coverage starts today at 4:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 16-10-1, 33 points, 4th Pacific Division
Maple Leafs: 11-11-5, 27 points, 7th Atlantic Division


***The Sharks begin a four-game road trip tonight that will also take them to Ottawa, Montreal and Chicago later this week. They are 6-7-1 on the road, and 1-3-1 in their last five.

Scoring goals has been a season-long issue for the Sharks, but they are coming off of 4-3 home win over Carolina on Saturday. Conversely, San Jose is fifth in the NHL allowing just 2.18 goals-per game.

“We’ve won a lot of low scoring games here. It’s becoming second nature to us,” Pete DeBoer said. “Hopefully the goals are coming. We had four last game, and hopefully we can build on that.”

***DeBoer called Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) and David Schlemko (right ankle) game-time decisions, although Schlemko, who has missed the last three games, said after the morning skate that he’s good to go.

Vlasic left the Hurricanes game midway through the second period, and was one of the first players off the ice on Tuesday morning, suggesting he’s more doubtful to play than Schlemko. The Sharks were 7-7-1 without Vlasic last season, but Brenden Dillon thinks this year’s defense corps is better set up to deal with his potential absence.

“From top to bottom, I think we’re a little bit more mobile this year,” Dillon said. “[Vlasic] is a guy that moves the puck well and is able to shut down team’s speed. … With Schlemmer coming back, that’s good for us. Teams are going through injuries, and we’re going to have to deal with them.”

***Toronto is 1-3-1 in its last five games, and will be playing the second of a five-game homestand. Colorado beat the Maple Leafs on Sunday, 3-1, despite Toronto recording 52 shots on goal.

“I saw us play in the o-zone. We didn’t score. We haven’t scored in a bit,” said coach Mike Babcock, whose club has nine goals in its last five games.


Sharks: Joe Thornton. It was just about this time last year when Thornton started to take off after a slow start – after Dec. 15, 2015, he was tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in scoring the rest of the way. Thornton, who is still searching for his first goal in a manned net this season, has had career success against Toronto with 10 goals and 30 assists for 40 points in 44 games.

Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews. The first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Matthews is tied for the team lead with 12 goals, tied for second on Toronto in scoring with 20 points, and has a team-leading 97 shots on goal. He has scored at least one goal in five of Toronto’s last eight games (six total).


Patrick Marleau – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Joonas Donskoi – Logan Couture – Joel Ward
Kevin Labanc – Chris Tierney – Mikkel Boedker
Matt Nieto – Tommy Wingels – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Justin Braun
David Schlemko – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Maple Leafs
Leo Komarov – Nazem Kadri – Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Mitch Marner
Zach Hyman – Auston Matthews – William Nylander
Matt Martin – Ben Smith – Nikita Soshnikov

Morgan Rielly – Nikita Zaitsev
Jake Gardiner – Connor Carrick
Matt Hunwick – Roman Polak

Frederik Andersen (starter)
Antoine Bibeau


Sharks: David Schlemko (right ankle) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (lower body) are questionable. Tomas Hertl (right knee sprain) is out.

Maple Leafs: Joffrey Lupul (sports hernia), Stephane Robidas (knee) and Martin Marincin (undisclosed) are out.


“We have a very young team, and I think we’re proving it. Every game is better and better. We still have lots to learn, but I think we’re [going] in a good [direction].” - Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak

The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year


The anatomy of Jannik Hansen's recently-broken scoring drought after nearly one year

Jannik Hansen's game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday marked the first time he scored in 355 days. 

Hansen last scored on Mar. 30, 2017 against the Edmonton Oilers, his second goal with the Sharks following an in-season trade. His scoring drought, in all, lasted 44 regular season games, 50 if you include the postseason. 

How exactly does a goal-scoring drought last nearly a year? The right (wrong?) circumstances all need to come together, and that was certainly the case for Hansen for much of the last year.

For one, the Danish forward was in and out of the lineup. San Jose played 83 regular season and postseason games between Hansen's second and third goals, and he did not play in 33 of those games. Plenty of players have had rough 50-game stretches, and that's often without not playing for weeks at a time, as Hansen has done a couple of times this season. 

When Hansen did draw into the lineup this year, however, he wasn't generating offense at the same rate he had in the past. This season, Hansen's five-on-five shot rate (6.19 shots per 60 minutes), shot attempt rate (10.53 individual corsi per 60), and unblocked shot attempt rate (8.95 individual fenwick per 60) were all down from his career averages, according to Corsica Hockey. 

That decline is natural, considering Hansen turned 32 just six days ago. Those rates were not down enough, however, to expect him to fail to score in his first 39 appearances this season. Naturally, a long run of bad luck played a big role in Hansen's dry spell.

Hansen went 0-for-66 in shots over the 50 consecutive regular season and playoff games in which he did not score. He's a career 11-percent shooter, and had he shot at his career average, he would have scored seven goals during that time. That feels about right for a bottom-six forward. 

In many ways, all of these factors fed into one another. Hansen wasn't generating shots or scoring, then was scratched, then couldn't find the back of the net when he returned and was scratched again. All the while, fellow fourth-liners Marcus Sorensen (26.7 percent shooting percentage this season), Joel Ward (14.3 percent) and Barclay Goodrow (13.2 percent) were converting on their chances, forcing Peter DeBoer's hand. 

His possession play has been solid all season (50.74 percent corsi-for, per Natural Stat Trick), but the offense hasn't followed. When it does, as was the case Tuesday night, he can be an effective fourth-line forward, and the goal on Tuesday bought him more time to prove it. 

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win

Sharks blow out Devils for season-high fifth straight win


SAN JOSE -- Jannik Hansen scored his first goal of the season and fellow fourth-liners Eric Fehr and Barclay Goodrow also scored to help the San Jose Sharks win their season-high fifth straight game, 6-2 over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.

Logan Couture added his 30th goal of the season, and Joe Pavelski and Mikkel Boedker also scored to give the Sharks a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with one game in hand.

Brent Burns added three assists and Martin Jones made 26 saves.

The scoring barrage by San Jose spoiled Cory Schneider's return to net for the Devils. Schneider allowed four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled midway through the second period of his first start since March 8. Schneider has lost 11 starts in a row since his last win for the Devils on Dec. 27.

Taylor Hall scored his 32nd goal of the season and Blake Coleman also scored for the Devils, who lead Florida by just one point in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers have two games in hand.

After Hansen and Fehr scored in the first period, Goodrow chipped one in midway through the second period on a surprising night of scoring from the fourth line when he beat Schneider on a 2-on-1.

Couture then scored 40 seconds later on San Jose's first shot against Keith Kinkaid for his third career 30-goal season. Boedker added San Jose's second power-play goal of the night late in the second and the rout was on.

The Sharks got off to a fast start in their first game back from a 3-0 Canadian road trip, scoring three goals in the first period and killing 1:20 of a two-man advantage for New Jersey.

The teams traded goals to start with Fehr beating Schneider over the shoulder from a bad angle and Hall answering when he stole a bouncing puck from Justin Braunand beat Jones with a quick shot.

San Jose then scored twice in a span of less than three minutes to take the lead. Pavelski tipped in a shot from Kevin Labanc on the power play to give the Sharks the lead.

Then after Jones denied Damon Severson from in close at one end, Dylan DeMelo sent a long pass that Hansen chased down and then beat Schneider on a breakaway for his first goal since March 30, 2017.

NOTES: DeMelo has 10 assists this month. ... San Jose D Brenden Dillon has a five-game point streak. ... Devils F Miles Wood (upper body) was scratched and Jesper Bratt played in his place.


Devils: Visit Pittsburgh on Friday.

Sharks: Host Vegas on Thursday.